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Jon Avnet and Shannon Murphy
honored as Holocaust educators.

Honor Filmmaker and Teacher
For Holocaust Discourse

Story and Photo by Tim Boxer

HO will be making the first film about 9/11 or the suicide bombers plaguing Israel? I posed the question to Hollywood producer/director Jon Avnet, whose Holocaust movie, Uprising, about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was an NBC miniseries last fall.

“I don’t know yet how to do it,” Avnet said. “I don’t have any organized thoughts how to deal with it.”

He said no filmmaker would approach the subject at this time.

“The first films about Vietnam were shlock and exploitive,” he said. “Apocalypse Now was the best one. It will take a while to do it right on 9/11 and the suicide bombers.”

The American Friends of the Ghetto Fighters Museum honored Avnet at its second annual dinner at Chelsea Piers.

Founded in 1949 by survivors of the Jewish resistance, the museum is located at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot just north of Haifa.

Avnet said he made Uprising because he was irked that the true story of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto had never been properly told.

“I made the film to keep the people who died alive for coming generations.”

He could have told the story as a documentary or as entertainment.

“I chose the way of entertainment,” he said. “I come from a world where entertainment expresses the deepest emotions.

“I wanted to reach a younger generation, which is crucial.“

He admitted he was never a good student. His 10th grade teacher, exasperated, told him, “You’ll either be a genius or a madman.”

Today he calls himself “a meshugener from Hollywood, although originally a meshugener from Brooklyn.”

“Teaching is what we all should do,” Avnet said.

So the American Friends honored Avnet as an educator. The group also honored Rabbi Dov Lerea of New York’s Heschel School and the non-Jewish Shannon Murphy of Central High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

Murphy, a geography teacher, first encountered Holocaust education when she took part in a seminar two years ago at the museum.

“The ceremony at the World Trade Center,” she said, “serves as another reminder of the tragic events of the Holocaust which we should never forget.”

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